Listen up Pet Parents!
Your cats are trying to tell you something and we need to be all ears!
It is common knowledge to us privileged enough to share a household with these complex creatures they can leave us scratching our heads and asking ourselves “Why’d they DO that?” “What were they Thinking?”
Well they probably would like to know the same thing about us and our response behaviors too!
Follow along as we try to understand their needs and wants as we navigate cat language and behaviors.
Question number 1:
Why do you get so upset when I potty outside the litter box?
Well, let’s see it through the eyes of your cat, and first find out if the litter pan is a Friend or Foe…
Is it down in a dark scary basement or worse next to loud water pipes or a toilet that occasionally flushes loudly or runs and is scary to the cat….. Cats won’t potty where they don’t feel safe.
Did you get new litter that has a strong odor for YOUR benefit but smells nasty to the cat? How about those covered litter boxes….aka the port-o-potty of the cat world. Those covered things hold in stink and heat just like the real deal and nobody likes that stuff! And the flap entrances can keep a cat from seeing clearly out into his/her world and thereby avoiding an ambush from another cat, dog, or child.
How often do you clean it out? We know this is not the most favorite of daily tasks but those cat tootsie rolls and urine piles are not liked by your cat
either. Just like you don’t like a dirty (non-flushed) toilet, cats prefer a clean bathroom as well. AAFP guidelines state there ideally should be one more litter pan than cat in a multi-cat household. https://catfriendly.com/why-does-my-cat/not-use-the-litter-box/
Did you just get a new family member and kitty is feeling threatened? Maybe he/she is trying to mark their territory and stake their claim. Hey nobody asked THEM if they wanted a new brother or sister right?
Lastly there are several feline medical conditions that make them not feel well. When cats are sick sometimes they cannot get into the litter box. Diseases like osteoarthritis, kidney disease, diabetes, or bladder stones can change their bathroom behaviors. These kitties are sick and need to seek veterinary attention.
House-soiling guidelines|American Association of Feline Practitioners:
Question Number 2:
Why do you keep petting me when I clearly said stop?
Cats do like to be petted, but on their terms. They ARE talking to you when you see their tail start to swish and their ears start to pin down. You just need to be tuned into them and not the big colored box you are watching (TV). Those subtle cues are cat language for, “ I have had enough thanks.” https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-tail-wagging-the-meaning-of-different-cat-tail-wags
You ignore that, and the next request may be with a bite attached. We don’t like people who just don’t know when to stop talking or won’t respect our personal space, and cats don’t either. Sometimes they may be trying to tell us, “ When you pet me here it hurts.” Cats with an injury or arthritis can stop seeking attention and contact if they are in pain. https://catfriendly.com/feline-diseases/signs-symptoms/know-cat-pain/
There is also a correct place to pet your cat. They will certainly tell you when you get it wrong but they often purr or stretch into your hand when you get “The spot”. Some examples of favorite spots are behind the ears, the base of the tail, under the chin, or over their shoulders. Rarely does a cat like his/her belly rubbed.
If their behavior or acceptance of those places goes on the blink that could indicate something is not ok there. Possibly an ear infection or a bite wound, or arthritis. Any excessive behavior change should prompt an investigation by you and your veterinarian.
Question number 3:
Why do you freak out when I scratch all the furniture you clearly bought for me?
Ok so we all know we just live in THEIR world right? I know that new sofa was beautiful just last week and now is in shreds, but cat scratching is normal behavior. What else were they supposed to scratch? Maybe the post you provided for them was in an out-of-the-way location or not right for our age. Maybe it was flimsy or too short or too tall. https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/the-right-cat-scratching-post-for-every-stage-of-life
Cats like a variety of scratching surfaces like cardboard, lumber pieces, carpet, or sisal rope. It needs to be sturdy and allow for full stretch either vertically or horizontally. They often like it near where they wake from a napping site. Cats like to stretch out on them, and it helps them maintain their claw motion for hunting and climbing. This action also helps them shed old layers of their nails. These guys need this in their environments much like we need daily exercise and stimulation. Excessive scratching can also mean they are too stressed or have anxiety about their home environment. Look for subtle stressors and cat to cat interactions to uncover conflict. The procedure termed declawing is controversial and has many drawbacks. Listen to your cat’s needs. There are many, many options to help curb this behavior other than surgery. https://catfriendly.com/cat-care-at-home/living-clawed-cat/